Booking it: J. Alexander tells it like it is and the boy can talk… I know!
Dear Diary: Reading “Follow the Model” by my old friend, assistant stylist / sidekick, former partner in bettering the crimes of fashion is just like sitting around and talking to Alex, ummm Miss J.
Well, we’ve already gone through this, he has as many names as he has fabulous steps. He is Alex to me as his real name is Alexander Jenkins but others also know him as Jay. Then there is J. Alexander from his modeling days and Miss J to those who know him from Americas Next Top Model. The book will explain…
ôFollow the Modelö is a steady stream of consciousness. A long and winding journey that is colored with words so dense with visuals that you feel like you share each experience with him short of his hilarious in-the-flesh impersonations, that is. If he weren’t on ANTM, he’d probably be on SNL.
I’ve never been very good at working with people bereft of personality life is too short to be bored to death. I prefer to surround myself with creative-minded people who are inspirational and entertaining. When I was a stylist, my posse may have had a bit too much personality, if that was ever possible.
I first met Alex, through Richard Nahem, back at Studio 54 on the infamous night when we both broke the heel on our Charles Jourdan pumps. Richard and Alex knew each other from working at Bergdorf Goodman in the Delman shoe department. I was still in school. Yes, we were all proudly underage at 54 and the FocusOnStyle art director, Vincent Gagliostro was my favorite dance partner!
Later when I became a stylist, Brad Boles, the makeup artist and now cast member on “The Real Housewives of New York,” and I teamed up with North Rebis on hair as a styling trio for makeup, hair and fashion. Alex was coincidentally North’s roommate so we were back in touch. When Alex wasn’t looking gorgeous about town in gowns of his own design, he was pulling photo shoot samples for me as an assistant stylist. Yes, there always was some backseat modeling tips from him on photo shoots to keep the models doing what they should be doing– think of it as the precursor to being a runway coach. During the times when Alex wasn’t around Michael Alan Stein, Phillip Bloch, Veronika Ming, and Jo-Anne McFarlane were some my stylist assistants. I told you that it was a colorful crew!
In Follow the Model, Alex shares some stories about how we met and worked together. He tells of a particularly racially disturbing incident when he was treated so offensively while returning couture samples for me at a major designer boutique. Bet that same designer would be kissing Alex’s bunions today just to have him walk into his store again!
Reading that story in his book brought to mind another rather hideous scenario.
I was pulling samples for a Vogue Mexico cover shoot and Alex accompanied me up to a very famous Italian designer’s New York atelier. As the shoot was early the next morning, we didn’t want to chance to messenger the gowns to the studio so we took them along with us. Looking rather chic, Alex and I decided to walk down Madison Avenue to window shop before we grabbed a cab back home.
Suddenly, almost every shopkeeper along that stretch of Madison Avenue was my new best friend. I can’t remember any other time before or since where people would come out of their stores to say hello, ask if we’d like some champagne, or if we would like to put our bags down.
Then I realized what it was.
WATCH: J. Alexander video on FocusOnStyle.com
Here I was walking down Madison Avenue with a 6’4″ black man carrying two packed, full-length garments bags with that designers name imprinted across them. Honey, we both looked rather chic, but those shop girls probably thought they hooked Mrs. Gotrocks and her best boy. A really sad commentary where a few patronizing actions speak so loudly. Alex may always remember retuning those clothes, but I remember picking them up.
In Follow the Model, Alex shares his insights on how you need to do what you need to do to be the best you can. Circumvent adversity. Learn from the past. Take every opportunity. And be as fabulous as you were put on this earth to be, one stilettoed foot at a time.
If you don’t have the opportunity to meet J. Alexander in the flesh, the book is the next best thing. If you do know him, there are probably a few familiar stories that will jog your memory.
All in all, it’s a fun and inspirational read. Get to it! — Sharon Haver
Montage photos, this page only, copyright Sharon Haver, personal collection
Other photos, this page only, J. Alexander